POLICE will get dedicated art theft experts to tackle the rising trade in stolen treasures.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has set out a new strategy for targeting a trade in stolen arts – which is said to be second only to drugs for criminal profitably.
The North East has seen some of the UK’s most high profile art thefts in recent years, with £2million of Chinese antiques and a Shakespeare folio stolen from Durham University.
Last year raiders tunnelled through the wall of the Oriental Museum in Elvet Hill, Durham, and stole the solid jade bowl and 18th-century porcelain figurine, both from the Qing Dynasty.
They were recovered within days from a field at Brandon.
Chief Constable Andy Bliss, who leads on the issue nationally, worked with officers from Durham to put together a new plan for tackling such thefts.
A designated art liaison expert will be trained to deal with incidents and work with police while forces are being encouraged to send officers to museums and galleries to see what is at risk and what can be done to keep sites safe.
Detective Superintendent Adrian Green, of Durham Police, has been working with the unit to come up with the new focus.
He said: “This is top-level international organised crime and it runs into tens of millions of pounds.
“What we’re seeing is that the value of items is increasing but also the level of violence that they are prepared to use is increasing, which is obviously a major concern to law enforcement. It’s robbing our communities of their heritage and putting millions of pounds into the pockets of criminals.”